EXCLUSIVE: “She Was So Happy That She Hugged Me” – Siddhant Chaturvedi Talks About His First Meeting With Deepika Padukone

EXCLUSIVE: “She Was So Happy That She Hugged Me” – Siddhant Chaturvedi Talks About His First Meeting With Deepika Padukone

Pallavi Manoj

When the audience stepped into the theatres to watch the recently released Gully Boy, they knew they were in for filmmaker Zoya Akhtar‘s compelling story-telling along with Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt‘s praise-worthy performances. But little did they know they would come out with a heart full of love for not just the aforementioned names – but also someone else, someone most of them weren’t acquainted to. No points for guessing I am talking about the cute hot guy who played MC Sher.

With a debut performance as path-breaking and talked about as his, Siddhant Chaturvedi was expected to be as caught up as he was when I entered the Excel Entertainment office. But it wasn’t the array of interviews that were keeping him busy, it was his work. When I finally got to sit down with the internet’s latest obsession, I realized he is exactly the breath of fresh air that Bollywood needs.

A boy from a middle-class family well on his path to becoming a CA drops out to follow his passion and emerges triumphant – doesn’t Siddhant’s story seem worthy of a Bollywood movie? Come to think of it, his journey does resemble the plot of Gully Boy to a certain extent. One popular Coca Cola ad, some not-so-popular commercials and a web series later, he found his big ticket to Bollywood when Zoya noticed him at a party and asked him to audition for her film. And the rest is history.

Despite being new to the industry, Sid isn’t unaware of his capabilities but chooses to remain excited, honest and super chill. I got him to talk about very many things – right from his quest to the big screen to his equation with Ranveer and of course (at the risk of breaking many hearts), his love life.

Considering you don’t hail from a film family, it must have been quite tough for you to get noticed in the crowd and find your foothold in the industry…

Of course, it was tough, very tough in fact. To wake up in the morning every day and stare out of the window without any idea of what you’re going to do is not a very nice feeling. In the beginning, I was auditioning for hardly 2 or 3 things and mainly ads for pocket money. I was choosy about that too. I did just a few – including the Coca Cola one.

Siddhant Chaturvedi in a still from his Coca Cola Ad
Siddhant Chaturvedi in a still from his Coca Cola Ad

On top of that, ek toh maine CA chhod diya tha. So my parents used to be like “Beta karle CA, naach gaana toh chalta rahega”. But I never believed in that backup and I was like “No”. And my parents also never really forced me, thankfully, they were very supportive. But it was a struggle to get here. It was hard to get into the lobby and get noticed. During my college, I used to walk-in for random auditions to be deemed fit or not fit. It started off with that and eventually, people started recognizing me and started calling me. See, this happened over time. Although in the beginning, I started off by saying, “Abhi hero banoonga main”. But during my struggle, I realised hero jantaa banati hai, acting kar tu beta pehle.

Yeah, people say I was there at that party when Zoya spotted me. But to be there is a big thing, right? It was only because Inside Edge had happened and Ritesh (Sidhwani, producer of Inside Edge) sir had really appreciated what I had done. So it’s been huge for me! I’ve been very selective with my work and because of that, you take time to get noticed. But I don’t regret anything because both my work has been on the world stage. We’ve gone to the Emmy’s with Inside Edge and Gully Boy was showcased at Berlin Film Festival. But to reach here has been very tough.

Siddhant Chaturvedi in a still from Inside Edge
Siddhant Chaturvedi in a still from Inside Edge

Tell us a little more about your first meeting with Zoya.

I had not expected that to happen. It was a success party for Inside Edge. Zoya was dancing with me on Gallan Goodiyan (the song from Dil Dhadakne Do, Zoya’s directorial). She might have thought there was something about me, so she asked me, “Who are you?” And I was like, “I’m Siddhant Chaturvedi. I’m an actor in Inside Edge.” Zoya hadn’t watched it, so she had no clue who I was. But, she introduced herself and told me that she’d want me to audition for this role and I was like, “Of course!”

Then she asked me if I was from Bombay and I told her, “Haan bacchi, apun Bombay se hi hain”. Because I knew Gully Boy was happening and I guess it was my presence of mind to do that. But this was just the spotting, cracking the audition was the bigger ordeal. I took one whole day to prep for my character. I was up the whole night doing it. I dressed up as a rapper and went for the audition. I did my lines, did some OG rap which I had written and Zoya called the next day and asked me to join if I liked the script. That’s what I loved, she’s an absolute professional. And I knew it was a classic before it was made.

You’ve finally made your big Bollywood debut and appreciation has been pouring in from all quarters. Would it be okay to say that your ultimate childhood dream has come true?

Actually, not at all. The thought of acting came to me only after I went to college. Before that, I just used to do mimicry and stuff. Also, back then I was clear I wanted to do CA. Acting… pata hai humko middle-class family se hain, humare woh soch hi nahi ho sakti hai

Most parents become worried about their children’s security when they hear “acting”. And it’s every parent’s dream to see their children settled and secure. So CA was what was there on the map. It all started with me auditioning for my drama team and getting selected. After that, I did a lot of plays — I was acting, directing, writing, dancing and doing comedy. We even won some of the intercollegiate fests we went for and that’s when it clicked. I felt there was something that I was doing right. But even after this, nothing really took off. I did theatre for 6 to 7 months and then I had to leave because my CA – IPCC and CPT entrance exams were happening along with my BCom. So, I cleared everything in my first attempt and it was only in my third year of college that things started to take off if you can call it that. There was this event called Bombay Times Fresh Face that I won and it’s only after that I gained some confidence about the commercial aspect of acting.

That’s when I started thinking I can entertain people and get paid. So, then I went for random auditions by tagging along with my theatre friends. I realised my potential as an actor and an entertainer, also because I used to dance. Dancing was something that I always used to enjoy — locking, popping, Bollywood, everything. So, my journey, I feel, started with dancing and I also paint. So, I was always artistically inclined towards the creative arts but never really thought of it as a career path until college.

Let’s come back to the talk of the town – your film, Gully Boy. In terms of age and experience, you’re younger that Ranveer Singh in real life. How was it playing his mentor on-screen?

It was a complete role reversal off-screen because after a shot I used to be like “Baba kaisa kiya?” and he used to be, “Arrey bahut accha kiya, yaar”. He’s been my MC Sher throughout the film. I feel like I’ve been lucky to work with the actors that I have. They’ve been so real, unlike the actors who try to hog the limelight or are insecure. Ranveer Singh, he’s a star, no doubt, he’s a megastar but he’s a beautiful actor and he let me do my thing.

He is the one who broke the ice at our first meeting. He hugged me, kissed me and was like aarggh. He’s such an amazing guy. And I feel like this is so rare because actors are very insecure thinking, “Oh uske saath nahi, iske saath nahi.” But we were so happy bonding over the course of the film and even after.  In fact, he’s still texting me saying “Mere bina kuch sign mat karna, haan? Lala phat gaya hai tu. Bohot kamaal kiya hai tune.” He’s been texting me even from Berlin and he was like, “Tune kya kar diya, tujhe kuch idea hi nahi hai.” So, he’s been that guy to me. That’s why he’s a legend in the making.

What was the prep that went into playing MC Sher?

Zoya had briefed me really well and she had faith in my prep. I did my own prep and I started writing a lot of rap. Don’t get me wrong, I was very new to it. I was locked in 20 days before the shoot. And if you look at my playlist even now, it only has rock or Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar and all the other classic Bollywood songs. Rap was never my thing because samajh mein nahi aata tha yaar, jo itna fast-fast bolte the.

But I knew hip hop, I used to dance to hip hop music. I heard hip hop only to dance, I never thought I could rap. But I used to write poetry, shayari. Now, I know that putting rhythm to it is what creates rap. After my prep, when I met Divine for the first time, I rapped for him and he really appreciated it. That’s when I knew I was going in the right direction.

What was the toughest part about shooting for the film?

None of it was tough because I loved what I was doing as it was my first film. The only difficult part was the wait after it got over because it was long. There was nothing interesting that was coming my way.

In fact, I still haven’t signed anything and I’m waiting for something big. But, I’m okay with waiting. I’ve waited for 6 years after my college ended to be here and I’ll wait again because I need a solid something to believe in.

You’ve surprised everyone with your note-worthy performance. Naturally, your fan following is increasing with each passing day. What is the best fan encounter you’ve had, so far?

Oh, that’s easy! I met Deepika Padukone after she watched the film and she loved it and really loved my part. She was so happy that she hugged me and I was like, “I’m a fanboy!” and she’s like, “No, I’m a fangirl!” Ranveer was also there and he was like, “Bola tha na tereko main? Maine Toh Bola.” That was the best!

What about the female attention coming your way?

Of course, I like it. I really love it. But it’s not the prime focus because during my struggling days, I’ve learned that these are the things that could easily get to your head.

The attention was there even when I won the Fresh Face content back in college. I know because I’ve kind of owned up to it. But having said that, it’s lovely to have so many girls take notice of your work.

Talking about ‘so many girls’, is there any girl you’re seeing at the moment?

Yeah, I’m kind of seeing somebody. She’s someone from the industry but not an actress.

Now that you’ve made your big Bollywood debut, would you be open to continue doing web series?

After Inside Edge, there were so many web offers that I didn’t want to get into because there was nothing interesting. There were a lot of TV offers also which was a pure ‘No’. Not because I don’t like TV, I know there’s a huge audience for that, but because I didn’t want to be an actor watching TV. I dreamt of being an actor after watching cinema. My parents always used to take me to watch films every Friday as a little kid. My dad’s a huge film enthusiast and that’s the reason I wanted to become an actor. So I was very clear about what I want to do. Having said that, I’m currently shooting for the 2nd season of Inside Edge. So, I guess content is what will win me over.